Best Kosher Cookies 2002 | Cookies Amour | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Cookies Amour owner Lynne Wellish doesn't just have to keep her customers happy. She's got to answer to the Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth, the authority that determines whether a Jewish kitchen is kosher. She had a rabbi approve it before opening and pays a fee for ongoing inspections.

The result for her kosher-cookie-craving customers is a wide variety of premium treats, made with imported chocolate, real vanilla and butter (non-dairy types are available, too). They're baked daily; there is no freezer.

There's a favorite for everyone: chocolate chip, milk chocolate chip with pecans, oatmeal spice, apricot shortbread bars, classic peanut butter, raspberry shortbread bars, chocolate decadence and much more.

A friend has been gushing to us -- endlessly -- about this exciting ice cream shop he'd found in Chandler. Huh, we thought, we certainly respect his taste, but could a small store be that much better than the superpremium, handcrafted scoops we find in our local gourmet restaurants?

Oh yeah. We finally got out there to try it, and now, just try keeping us away. Angel Sweet makes its divine gelatos fresh every day, and is this stuff a knockout. Somehow, it manages to be low-fat, but you'd never know to taste the thick, rich Italian ice cream. One glance at the more than two dozen flavors on display, and our heads are spinning.

Angel Sweet's recipes, and many of its ingredients, come straight from Italy. Fruits are in high form, intense and arrogant, partnered with classic concoctions like tiramisu, panna cotta with caramel, and stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip).

Which reminds us: We really should give that friend a call back and thank him. But we can do that later, after we finish our dessert.

This stuff is truly good for you, and truly special. You can eat like a pig, yet leave still feeling petite. Even better, it's one of the only health food places in town that looks like a real, elegant restaurant rather than a hippie hangout hut.

What's magical? How about merza farangee (grilled eggplant with sautéed onion, garlic, tomato, fresh herbs, feta and olive oil, dipped with toasted garlic pita and cucumber-yogurt sauce), hummus-tabbouleh pita, or tofu portobello (sautéed silken tofu, spinach, onion, garlic, ginger root, tomato, feta, olive oil, lemon and soy sauce with brown rice, toasted almond-saffron-raisin)? When we crave chicken, we get it spicy with mushroom, bell pepper, onion, scallion, ginger root, celery, garlic, tomatoes, fresh herbs, Persian spices, feta and soy sauce. And while there's no beef, we can get shrimp (scampi) and lamb (gyros).

Even dessert is delicious, with velvety vegan creations including pumpkin pie, carrot and cheese cakes, or Persian saffron rice pudding. It's all a dream, capped with a hot cup of Persian chai tea with rose water, rose petals and cardamom.

Damn, it's hot. No matter what time of year you're reading this, we feel pretty safe in saying, damn, it's hot. So we find great relief in soaking our skulls at Island Ices, a funky place specializing in soft water Italian ices and frozen premium custards. A specialty of the house is ice and custard blended together as an Island Ice Shake.

It's as good for us as it tastes. Ices are made with real fruit, and custards are 90 percent fat free. Ice flavors are bright and refreshing, like cherry, lemon, mango, watermelon, pia colada, blueberry, grape, prickly pear and cotton candy. Custard comes in chocolate or swirl. And though we had to wonder when we heard about it, we're now devoted fans of the Island Breeze, a gelato combination of Italian ice scooped between two layers of custard. How cool is that?

When we're looking to get fresh, we head to Fresh Blenders. We have our reasons.

It could be the two free "super nutrients" blended into each smoothie. And these options are tangible substances -- bee pollen, oat bran, soy protein -- rather than chemical cocktails with vague, fancy names (a bowlful of "Femme Booste," anyone?).

It could be the immense variety. Fruit n' Tea Freezes of juice, fruit, green tea, vitamin C and folic acid. Vegetable blends of beet, carrot and celery juices. Cappuccino served hot, cold, flavored, in yogurt shakes. Non-dairy smoothies for the lactose-intolerant. MET-Rx shakes for the flab-intolerant.

Truth be told, the reason we love Fresh Blenders is this: Smoothies contain the only fruit our intestines ever see, and with flavors such as Orange Creamsicle Delight and Banana-Peanut Butter Yum Yum, this place makes nutritional noshing more score than chore. Plus the counter is piled with 98 percent fat-free cookies and brownies.

We can feel our thighs shrinking already.

Jamie Peachey
We know these tarts are special, since they're spelled in the très European "tartes." Each little jewel is handcrafted by the bistro's "Tarte Goddesses," and they're to die for (or at least diet for). We're thrilled with the expertly balanced flavors and the restraint in cloying, tooth-shattering sugar. The signature tarte is a symphony of chocolate crust brimming with bananas and coconut cream that's brûléed to order. We're also addicted to the white chocolate nectarine blueberry bread pudding tarte, a luscious mouthful made with homemade brioche, fresh fruit and caramel crème anglaise.

About a half-dozen tartes usually are on the menu, and they may change with the seasons (rustic peach in the summer). Yet whatever the selection, there's something that never changes about these desserts: They're divine.

Best Dessert For An Awkward First Date

Fondue at 6

On the episode wherein he scheduled a date with a deaf woman, Jerry Seinfeld made a fine suggestion: "How about six? Six is good."

While numbers never were our strong point, we can appreciate a simple mathematical formula now and again. Here's one: Gooey fondue plus swanky lounge plus tiny pitchforks plus sticky fingers equals sexy with a capital SEX. No matter the flavor -- Grand Marnier-Chocolate, Godiva White Chocolate or Butterscotch-Caramel -- this fondue formula liquefies first-date tension.

Like the mixed messages that make our dates so very frustrating, the nibbles are both nourishing (strawberries, raspberries, bananas) and naughty (cubes of cheesecake, bites of brownie, squares of sponge cake). And how enticing that, once the morsels are gone, there's no way to get to the remaining chocolate without plunging our fat fingers right into the pot. Sure, the room is filled with Scottsdale's thinnest and most beautiful. All the better to parade around with chocolate smeared across our ever-loving faces.

No one's looking -- just fondue it.

Hobe has been with us for 42 years, though the last decade has been a bit of a bumpy ride for the purveyor of fine meats, seafood and poultry. About 10 years ago, it was sold from its original family, and a roller coaster of quality ensued. Now, though, it's back in the hands of someone who really cares, Eric Fritchen, former assistant manager of A.J.'s Purveyor of Fine Foods. That means we have found -- again -- our fix for the best in prime and choice beef, ocean-fresh seafood, Young's farm turkey and chicken (absolutely the best in the world), lamb, and Arizona-raised shrimp.

It's fun to wander the shop and see what's new and exciting. If we want exotic game, we can ask for, and get, pretty much anything on special order. But we're captivated by that succulent steak, so thick and firm, blood red and singing with juices.

Woo-hoo, Hobe!

Let's be clear: This is the best place to get a pig. This is not necessarily the best place to actually be a pig. Because Smokey O's specialty is whole roast pig, delivered hot and ready to serve (or raw, for people who have a hankering to dig their own pit and fill it with flames). What's the use? Why, a luau, of course.

Smokey O's marinates its porkers in special seasonings, then roasts them for 27 hours over applewood smoke. The poor pig is then defiled with an apple in its mouth and a lei around its neck, but it sure tastes good. It's not even all that expensive -- $7.95 a pound for a big cooked pig, $3.50 raw. Poor pig, lucky us.

Mary Elaine's rates tops in our foodie books partly because of the fact that its dishes are all printed with capital letters. Not just lobster, but Butter-Braised Maine Lobster With Grilled Apple and Heirloom Tomato Fondue, with a suggested wine pairing of Messmer Muskateller Kabinett Halbtrocken, Pfalz, Germany, 1996. Prices are spelled out, none of those tacky numerals (A Service of Caspian Beluga Caviar in the Traditional Fashion, 2 oz., One Hundred Seventy-five). No simple iceberg salad, but a toss of Romaine and Aged Parmesan Custard, White Anchovies, Violette-Mustard Vinaigrette (Nineteen).

The thing is, the food warrants the pretension, because it's all outstanding. Jackets are required for men, almost unheard of in this casual town, but the requirement is fitting for such European elegance in decor, table settings, ambiance and service. Who wouldn't dress in the company of a $3 million wine collection offering more than 44,000 bottles and 1,800 labels?

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